Mauritania is a highly centralized Islamic republic with a president as head of state who governs under a constitution based on a combination of French civil law and sharia. The Senate and National Assembly exercise legislative functions. Voters elect municipal councilors, who then elect Senate members. The legislative bodies were weak relative to the executive. The 2009 election of Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz as president ended a political crisis caused by Aziz' 2008 coup d'etat against former president Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi. International observers declared the 2009 presidential election to be generally free and fair. In 2009 Union for the Republic (UPR), the majority party, won most of the seats in the indirect election to refill one-third of the Senate seats. Authorities maintained effective control over the security forces. Security forces sometimes committed human rights abuses.
The central human rights problems were the use of torture by police to extract confessions, continuing slavery and slavery-related practices, and trafficking in persons.
Other reported human rights problems included harsh prison conditions, abusive treatment in detention facilities, arbitrary arrests, and lengthy pretrial detention. Government influence over the judiciary, limits on freedom of assembly, restrictions on religious freedom for non-Muslims, and public corruption were problems. Discrimination against women, female genital mutilation/cutting
(FGM/C), early and forced marriage, political marginalization of southern-based ethnic groups, racial and ethnic discrimination, child labor, and inadequate enforcement of labor laws occurred.
The government took some steps to punish officials who committed abuses and prosecuted a number of officials, but authorities frequently acted with impunity. Civil society organizations objected to the small number of indictments and alleged that some of the prosecutions, particularly those involving official corruption, had political motivations.
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